Joint Letter to President Obama on Updating Burma's Financial Sanctions

November 5, 2013

The Honorable Mr. Barack Obama
President of the United States of America
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Ave, NW
Washington, DC 20500

Dear President Obama,

We are writing to urge your Administration to carefully calibrate its targeted sanctions on select individuals and entities in Burma. In particular, we urge the State Department in association with the Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) of the Treasury Department to update the Specially Designated Nationals (SDN) list with respect to Burma and implement unambiguous criteria for removing and adding persons to the list. We further urge that the criteria be made public. Clear and public criteria are needed to ensure that US companies have the tools to responsibly manage their investments in Burma, maximize the likelihood that American business activity will benefit Burma’s population, and avoid the serious risk that persons responsible for corruption or human rights abuses may benefit from US business relationships, contrary to clearly stated US interests.

We have been disappointed by the US Administration’s delay in making needed changes to the SDN list, even in the face of escalating human rights abuses, concerns over peace, security, and stability, and an explosion of land confiscation cases and military assaults tied to economic development. We have been particularly troubled that persons engaged in activities that are subject to sanction under Executive Order 13619, which was issued in July 2012 and renewed in May 2013, have not been added to the SDN list. Under E.O. 13619, targeted sanctions are to be imposed on persons who are responsible for human rights abuses, undermine political reforms or the peace process with ethnic minorities, or otherwise act in ways that threaten Burma’s security and stability.

The Administration’s continued failure to add to the SDN list persons who meet those criteria negates the primary purpose of E.O. 13619 and the SDN list – to ensure that such “bad actors” do not benefit from US investment, financial services, and trade. Delay in updating the list undermines US policy goals to promote democratic reforms, revenue transparency, the peace process, and human rights in Burma. It also contradicts the Administration’s clear pledge to regularly update the SDN list to help US companies avoid corrupt alliances.

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